By Erica Scime
Fifteen years ago, Daryl D’Souza was a student at Ryerson studying computer science and drinking away his Wednesday nights at Mick E. Fynns.
Now he’s back on campus teaching marketing at the G. Raymond Chang School. He also just opened a second Lou Dawg’s location at Church and Gerrard where students can enjoy southern-style BBQ until 4 a.m. every night of the week.
Erica Scime: When you were at Ryerson, where did you and your friends hang out?
Daryl D’Souza: We did Wycik Wednesdays at the old Mick E. Fynn’s before it moved. There were $10 pitchers of cheap beer. So we’re definitely going to have Wycik Wednesdays.
ES: So Mick E. Fynn’s wasn’t very big back then?
DD: It was down at Yonge and Gerrard. Back then it was a local hang out, not just students. That’s what we’re missing here, a house party for students all the time. You know when you go into a bar and every other person is a student? There’s something safe about that.
ES: When you studied computer science did you have any idea that you’d eventually own a restaurant?
DD: [laughs] Not at all, when I got into computer science I immediately figured out that computers aren’t my thing. I set my sights on business. I stuck it out through computer science and then did my MBA afterwards.
ES: How did you end up owning Lou Dawg’s?
DD: After graduation, I worked at eHealth for 10 years trying to sell deals that evaporated for political reasons. Then there was the billion-dollar eHealth scandal. Sometimes you feel like you’re not accomplishing anything. You’re working really hard and getting paid very well, but you’re not accomplishing enough. I started to get frustrated and then one day my partner Sean made pulled pork at home. We fell in love with the idea [of opening Lou Dawg’s]. I’ve never been in the restaurant business. Sean’s been in the restaurant industry so he has that side of it, and together we just made it happen.
ES: What made you decide to open a second location near the Ryerson campus?
DD: This is our home. This is our stomping ground! [laughs] I was teaching across the street, and we saw this location when it was a Pita Pit. We always thought we could do better, and here we are. Once we saw the upstairs we thought it would be a great idea to make it a two-floor bar. I’d like this to be the Madison for Ryerson University. [laughs] I think that’s what we’re missing, right? We need our bar.
ES: Why is Lou Dawg’s is right for Ryerson?
DD: The food is high quality and low-cost. And by high quality I mean that all the food comes in fresh from the butcher or fresh from the produce market. Nothing is processed, nothing is frozen, and nothing is fast food, although we do serve fast food prices. You can go to one of those sub places and get processed meat on a bun, or you can come here and get meat that comes in looking like an animal, gets put in the smoker, and then pulled it apart. I’m very anti-preservative. With Sean’s skills, to go down that path is just laziness. Southern food is comfort food and southern culture welcomes everybody. It’s a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. I think everyone can feel that as soon as they get here.
ES: And you teach at Ryerson?
DD: I teach Marketing 100. I have two sections right now at the Chang School.
ES: How does your Lou Dawg’s venture relate to what you’re teaching?
DD: I taught my first marketing class in 2009 while Sean and I were doing the business plan. It was fun teaching at the same time. My students helped me pick the logo and the location. I loved it, and I think my students loved it too. It’s a real-life case study that has a lot of focus on brand equity and customer segmentation. It’s interesting how we split up the business into different demographics depending on the time of day. When you throw social media on top of that, using it as extensively as we do, it’s pretty amazing. Then to tie it to a business concept and share it with people looking to learn, it‘s cutting edge stuff. That’s why I teach. I think its important, especially in marketing, to tie the concepts to real-life, real-world stuff, because marketing is always changing.
ES: You’ve said that you want Lou Dawg’s to be a sort of home for Ryerson students. What kind of atmosphere do you envision?
DD: It’s going to be fun. I’ve had Molson and Labatt commit to 12 parties per year each. We have a community manager on Twitter. The Lou Dawg’s Twitter is quite popular and we give away free food all the time. Our community manager @iamjeffcole is going to be the host of all these parties. [laughs] I’m teaching at Ryerson so I probably shouldn’t mix business with pleasure. Jeff Cole is going to be the face of the parties. One of the first things we’re going to do around spring break is a massive bus trip to Blue Mountain. Those are the types of parties that we’ll throw, student-focused. What we’re looking to do with this new location at Ryerson is build a real community where everyone knows our servers and bartenders by name, and we know our customers by name.